Learn about the past simple and progressive in this new Grammar Course episode from English Plus Podcast. In this episode we finish Chapter 1 and we have many exercises on the website for you to practice what you have learned, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to cement the knowledge you gained by doing the exercises I have prepared for you.

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Simple Past Tense

So the past simple seems to be a very simple tense. We use it when we want to talk about things that happened and finished in the past with no relation to any other actions necessary. However, there is something special about the past simple and that is while we add -ed to most verbs to make them past simple, some verbs are irregular and have no rule whatsoever. The best way to learn these is to keep a list at hand and check the list whenever we encounter any new irregular verb. That’s much better than memorizing all the irregular verbs out of context.

The second important thing about the simple past is the form. We use did as the auxiliary verb to make the past simple tense, but we don’t need it in affirmative, only in negative and questions and when we use it, we keep the main verb in its original form or infinitive form without adding anything to it or changing it in any way.


I went to the cinema.

I didn’t go to the cinema.

Did you go to the cinema?

Exercise 1

Complete the sentences with the correct simple past form of the verb.


Andres printer ink online last Monday.

realize - need

The next morning he he colored ink too.

try - answer - be

He to call the company to add more, but no one , and there no voicemail.

worry - be

Andres that the website fake.

email - explain

He the company and his situation.

respond - fix

The manager a few hours later and the order quickly.

relax - receive

Andres when he a confirmation email from the company.

Exercise 2

Complete the sentences with the verbs provided in the past simple, but sometimes the verbs should be used in negative. (Please use full form in negative i.e. did not instead of didn't)

wake up

Maria in the morning with a fever and headache.


She   well.


Her entire body .


She   her temperature with a thermometer.


She   a high fever.


She   the house all day.


She   a few spoonfuls of chicken soup.


She   to the nurse at the doctor's office.


She   an appointment for the following day.


Professor Moore is our new math teacher. He is very hard to follow. Yesterday, he   too fast.


He   the material to us quickly.


He   the board with examples.


He   time for questions, unfortunately.


He   everyone in the class.

Simple Past vs. Past Progressive

We use the past simple to talk about one event that happened in the past or a sequence of events, but when we want to say that something was in progress in the past when something else happened, we use the past progressive.


I was walking down the street when I met Alina.

And here using the simple past or past progressive can be tricky, especially in showing the actual sequence of events.


Deepak stood under a tree when it started raining.

(In this example, it started raining first, then Deepak stood under a tree.)

Deepak was standing under a tree when it started raining.

(In this example Deepak was standing under a tree first, and then it started raining)

So the difference are not big but important to know to get rid of any misunderstanding we may encounter, and that gives us more tools to play with to express ourselves better.

However, that doesn’t mean that we need two actions within the same sentence to ever use the past progressive. All it takes is a specific time in the past and that there was something or some action in progress around that time.


Yesterday at 10 o’clock, Susan was having dinner.

One last point here is that we can use the past progressive in both parts of the sentence if both actions are in progress at a specific time in the past.


I was watching TV when Omar was studying.

Here both actions were happening and in progress at the same time in the past.

Exercise 3

Write 1 before the action that started first, and 2 before the action that started second.

Hi Mom. I was leaving you a voicemail when you picked up.

I was leaving you a voicemail.  
You picked up.

I had a terrible walk home. When the storm started, I was coming home from work.

The storm started.  
I was coming home.

A painter next door was climbing a ladder when lightning hit the house.

A painter was climbing a ladder.  
Lightning hit the house.

I heard him yell while I was running for cover.

I heard him yell.  
I was running for cover.

He fell off the ladder when he saw the flash. Fortunately he's OK.

He fell off the ladder.  
He saw the flash.

Exercise 4

Complete the sentences. Use the simple past or the past progressive of the verbs provide below. (Please use full form in negatives instead of short forms e.g. was not instead of wasn't)

sit - think - listen, not

Between 5:00 and 7:00 P.M, I   in class. I had a lot of things on my mind. I   about some family issues. I   to the teacher.

shine - blow

It was a beautiful evening when I walked home. The moon   over the water, and a warm breeze .

stop - be, not - sit - get, not

I   by a friend's apartment, but he   home. He   in heavy traffic. He   home until 10:00.

wait - open - find

A package for me at home. I   it and   an early birthday present.

read - fall - cover - sneak

While I   to my nephew, he   asleep, so I   him up and   out of the room.


Unfulfilled Intentions

We can use was/were going to to talk about past intentions. Usually these are unfulfilled intentions, which means activities someone intended to do bu did not do.


Adnan was going to go to the movies last night, but he changed his mind.

There are other ways of expressing unfulfilled intentions in the past. We can use the past progressive form of the verbs help, hope, intend, and think about.


I was planning to go, but I didn’t.

I was thinking about going, but I didn’t.

Exercise 5

Choose all the sentences that are true about the given sentence.

I was going to pay you back for the taxi.

I was going to stay home on my day off, but I had too much work at the office.

Jared was going to the hospital to see his mother when he began to feel ill.

Add description here!

My dad was going to surprise my mom with jewelry for her birthday.

I was going to the train station when I remembered your phone call.

Check Your Knowledge

Rewrite the sentences below and correct any errors you find in them.

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